Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Giver

I just read The Giver, by Lois Lowry, for the first time in my life for my sister-in-law's book club. Though I'm not really surprised I never read this in school (since I come from a variety of educational backgrounds where I could have easily missed it), I was surprised by how much this book is right up my alley.

If you, like me, have never read it (it's a very recent classic written in the 1990's), here's a summary of this dystopian young adult novel. Jonas is an eleven-year-old who lives in a Community where life is perfect, regulated, ordered, predictable. He and his sister were selected, named, and given to his parents to raise to adulthood at the age of twelve. When he turns twelve, his future job will be selected for him, and he will begin training.

When the day finally arrives, everyone, especially Jonas, is surprised by the job he receives. It will change his life and, if misused, could destroy the Community.

This story takes place in a well-thought-out world and contains all the elements dystopian fiction should. Lowry thought of nearly everything, and the details are so intriguing that this short book reads in no time flat. The horror of what such a colorless world would entail creeps upon you slowly as Jonas becomes more and more aware of what's wrong with it. By the end, there's really only one option for Jonas, but it's hardly an option at all.

It's not a happy book, and I was not satisfied with the end, though it matches the tone of the book. I won't spoil it for you, but it has to do with toddler children, and as a mother of one with a baby on the way, I'm particularly affected by scenes of children suffering.

(As a side note, since I will not be reviewing it, I watched the last Harry Potter movie, which I enjoyed, but I could not keep the tears from flowing during the scenes of Harry's mother telling baby Harry she loved him before she died or baby Harry crying in the background while Snape held his dead mother. Just to think about those scenes afterward got me too choked up to even talk about it.)

So, yeah, while The Giver wasn't as visceral as Harry Potter, I was disturbed by the suffering of the innocents, particularly ones my son's age, and by the end, I had to ask myself, what was the point of Jonas's decision at the end?

Perhaps the end can be read in more than one way, but to me, it was clear, and it was not happy, no matter how much the author sugarcoated it. But I'm also of the opinion that the top never stopping spinning at the end of Inception. I tend to think pessimistically. So, read and judge for yourself.

Overall, I very much liked this 1994 Newbery Medal winner and look forward to a discussion with my fellow book club members.


  1. Lois Lowry got so many letters complaining about the ending if the giver and how it was left up to the reader to decide what happened that she wrote 2 companion books that give you a glimpse of what happened. They were very comforting to me. Especially The Messenger. Reading that might ease your mind

  2. That's very interesting...and kind of funny that she got so many complaints. Part of me wants her book to stand as it is because it was the ending she chose, but I am still curious to know what she said in her companion books. Thanks for the info!

  3. I've been meaning to read this for a while. I thought it was a fantasy, judging by the cover.

  4. It's a good book, Nathan! You should read it! It's more science fiction than fantasy. It's kind of like 1984 or Brave New World for a younger audience.


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